Practice Makes Perfect

I do not remember when I stumbled across this tidbit of wisdom, but to all teachers and managers of people out there, once I learned and internalized this concept, my ability to shepherd 90 5th graders to order and success skyrocketed.

This tidbit of wisdom is: Give your students at least seven times to practice a new procedure or skill before holding them accountable to it.

As an example, my students need to be able to come into the classroom without touching any of the science materials on the table. The first day I announced this new procedure, I said, “You will have three chances to practice this procedure today. If any one student makes a mistake and touches the materials, it’s okay, the whole class will just pick up all our backpacks and binders, leave the classroom, and come back in to practice entering the classroom without touching any of the materials. Tomorrow, you will have two chances, the day after that, one chance. After we’ve practiced entering without touching any of the materials, students who still choose to break the rules will have to do hands-off science. Students who choose to touch the materials before being given directions are choosing to be irresponsible and potentially causing danger to other students. Their natural consequence will be losing the privilege to work with the materials in the classroom that day.”

Each class of students had to go in and out of the classroom at least 2 times that day, and repeated the entrance procedures again the next day, but one week later, it’s fully ingrained in their heads and in their muscle memory, to not touch the materials on their tables until they are given permission to. Having the whole class practice also helps the students hold each other accountable to following the directions. Success.